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December 30, 2010

Isabelle Caro dies of anorexia

FASHION/HEALTH - Isabelle Caro, a French model whose anorexic body appeared in an Italian shock ad campaign, has died at the age of 28. She had been suffering from anorexia since the age of 13.

Caro is most famous for being featured in a shock ad campaign by Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani in 2007 for an Italian fashion house. Under the headline "No Anorexia" the ad in newspapers and billboards showed Caro naked, vertebrae and facial bones protruding.

Our version here has been censored for decency.

Her acting instructor and longtime friend, Daniele Dubreuil-Prévot, says that Caro actually died on Nov. 17 after returning to France from a job in Tokyo, but the news wasn't released until after Boxing Day in December.

Dubreuil-Prévot said that Caro "had been sick for a long time," referring to her anorexia.

See Also:
Carre Otis
Anorexia in Asia
Skinny Fashion Models
Anorexia on the Internet
Bulimia and Depression

December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve Treason

POLITICS/RELIGION - Almost a hundred years ago, on December 24th 1914, troops on both sides of enemy lines committed treason by having an unofficial truce.

In modern society religion, ideology and nationalistic pride have become the primary sources of clashes between civilizations. But a hundred years ago religion was actually a source of unity.

Thus it was that on December 24th 1914, following the opening of World War I and Christian churches on both sides of enemy lines supporting the national stance of ethnic and/or religious superiority (basically saying 'God is on our side'), that the doomed soldiers who were sent to the front set aside their weapons and ignored orders.

Such an event hasn't happened again since then. The act of treason that occurred then would never happen today. Soldiers who did would be subject to summary execution (ie. shot on the spot for treason).

Thus it was that only 5 months into the conflict (and not knowing how long it would last) the first Christmas of World War I was not a slaughter-fest of artillery, machine gun and poison gas weaponry...

It was Christmas in the Trenches and the morale was low. Rats, disease, filth, the screams of wounded soldiers in the distance, the ominous presence of the enemy. It could have been a potential massacre. To boost morale the German Kaiser Wilhelm ordered 100,000 Christmas trees and millions of candles sent to the front.

It started with German troops on the opposite side of No Man's Land singing "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night). British, French, Scottish and Canadian troops joined in and in various spots along the 600 mile stretch of trenches the unusual event happened: The Christmas Truce of 1914.

It should be noted that MOST of the soldiers did not leave their posts. Instead they stood there dumbfounded, suspecting it was all a trick. But quite a few did leave their posts and surprisingly they were not given any serious punishment for it. (There were punishments later handed out, but none of them were severe.)

Those who did set down their weapons and wandered out on to No Man's Land which was quiet for the evening. They gathered up the corpses of the fallen, and what followed was a celebration of photographs from home, chocolate, cigarettes, beer, wine, schnapps and according to several reports, soccer games.

Fraternization with the enemy / treason is severely punishable, including the possibility of summary execution by a commanding officer. But there were too many troops that did it. An officer who shot his own men on Christmas Eve would have had a revolt on his hands.

A French film, “Joyeux Noel”, later tells the story of how this all happened and is adapted from the stories and letters from the soldiers who lived through the event. Letters from the actual event are actually quite valuable now. A remake of the film in 2005 makes it out to be to the Scottish who started it.



Now more religious people might say that the treasonous Christmas Eve of 1914 was the spirit of Christmas alive in the souls of those men... but religious historians are quick to point out Jesus was actually born in March and the festival of Christmas was moved to December 25th by the Roman Emperor Constantine to coincide with the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Prior to that gift giving was not part of Christmas, but a Saturnalia tradition.

Likewise Yule logs and Christmas trees are also pagan traditions. And Saint Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) was actually a 4th century Greek (270 - 343 AD) who would secretly give gifts to people all year round, usually in the form of coins. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children and students.

Since then the story of Saint Nicholas has been warped and twisted so many times that it is now more of a pagan tradition than anything else.

Thus one could argue it was the common humanity that the soldiers in the trenches felt on December 24th 1914. They were tired of war and were really only there because their country had asked them to...

But there is one story about Saint Nicholas which does pertain to war and death. Its depicted in the painting shown here, Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death. Saint Nicholas preached the values of compassion for your fellow man and helping out those in need.

Thus humanity and compassion was probably what moved the troops in 1914. Sadly it was short lived.

December 21, 2010

December 2010 Coming Attractions

ENTERTAINMENT - See also our list of November 2010 film attractions.

December 3
Black Swan
Starring - Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel
Plot - A ballet dancer loses her grip on reality during rehearsals for Swan Lake.



December 10
The King's Speech
Starring - Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter
Plot - Reluctantly taking the throne after his brother’s abdication, King George VI must find the voice he needs to help lead his nation through WWII.



The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Starring - Ben Barnes, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes
Plot - In the third film in the fantasy series spawned by C.S. Lewis’s saga, the now-teenaged Lucy and Edmund join their friend Caspian on a quest to find the seven lost lords of Narnia.



The Tourist
Starring - Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie
Plot - An ordinary American vacationing in Venice becomes caught up in a web of intrigue after he meets a mysterious woman.



December 16
The Tempest
Starring - Helen Mirren, Russell Brand
Plot - Prospero is now Prospera in this gender-twisted telling of the Bard’s comedy about a magical island.



I, Don Giovanni
Starring - Lorenzo Balducci, Lino Guanciale
Plot - Mozart meets his match when he collaborates with lyricist Lorenzo da Ponte to create Don Giovanni. Love triangles ensue.



December 17
The Fighter
Starring - Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale
Plot - “Irish” Micky Ward becomes an unlikely boxing-world sensation thanks to his trainer and half-brother Dickie Eklund.



Rabbit Hole
Starring - Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart
Plot - A grief-stricken woman becomes fixated on the teenager who was responsible for the car accident that killed her son.



Tron: Legacy
Starring - Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges
Plot - A young man faces computerized foes in the same digital universe where his programmer father disappeared 20 years before.



Yogi Bear
Starring - Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Tom Cavanagh
Plot - Innocent campers and one luckless park ranger at Jellystone National Park are terrorized by talking bears with ties.

How Do You Know
Starring - Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd
Plot - A professional softball pitcher tries to decide who makes better boyfriend material — the egocentric baseball pro she’s been dating or a corporate exec who’s about to be indicted.

December 22
Country Strong
Starring - Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw
Plot - A country-music star tries for a comeback after she meets a rising songwriter.

Gulliver's Travels
Starring - Jack Black, Emily Blunt
Plot - A writer disappears in the Bermuda Triangle only to find himself among the wee people of Lilliput.

Little Fockers
Starring - Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro
Plot - Greg Focker’s abilities as the daddy of 5-year-old twins are questioned by his ever-suspicious father-in-law.



December 24
Barney's Version
Starring - Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Dustin Hoffman
Plot - A Montreal TV producer reflects on the three very different women who became his wives.



December 25
True Grit
Starring - Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon
Plot - A teenage girl enlists a salty old cowboy to avenge the death of her father.



Also in December: I Love You Philip Morris, The Warrior’s Way, The Company Men, Casino Jack, Kings of Pastry, Enter the Void, Film Socialisme

December 15, 2010

VISA and MasterCard ripping off consumers

CANADA - VISA and MasterCard are ripping off both businesses and consumers due to “restrictive” and “anti-competitive rules” on merchants that add up to $5 billion CDN / year just in Canada alone, according to a report by Canada’s competition watchdog.

Canada's federal bureau of competition policy has asked the Competition Tribunal to strike down the credit card rules (essentially making them free), which it argues effectively eliminates competition between the two multinational credit card giants. The rules (which are identical for both VISA and MasterCard) is effectively a monopoly on credit card lending and overcharges businesses for the right to accept credit cards in their stores.

The costs to businesses ends up being passed on to consumers, resulting in an approx. 3% hidden 'credit card' tax on all purchases. Canadians used their credit cards for $240 billion worth of purchases in 2009.

Globally VISA and MasterCard handled approx. $6.5 trillion USD in transactions in 2009. Together they represent 90% of the global credit card market.

For businesses who accept these cards, the rules result in an “increased costs to business and ultimately consumers”...
“Visa and MasterCard's anti-competitive behaviour hurts businesses and consumers alike,” said commissioner Melanie Aitken. “It is particularly harmful for small and medium sized businesses, key engines for economic growth in Canada. Without changes to the rules, merchants will continue to face high costs for credit card acceptance, while consumers, even those who use lower-cost methods of payment like debit or cash, will continue to pay higher prices.”
Businesses are in favour of scrapping the unfair fees, pointing to the credit card industry's billions of annual profits.

Politicians looking to cut back on household debt in Canada (Canadians now have more household debt than Americans) need to focus on regulating the credit card and banking industry.

VW recalls 37,000 cars due to fire

CARS - Volkswagen is recalling 37,000 vehicles in Canada due to leaky windshield wiper fuel that can cause fires. The recall affects 2007 to 2009 models: Golf, Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen, Rabbit + 2006 to 2010 Beetle and Beetle convertibles.

The plastic tab on the bottom of the windshield wiper fluid tank chafes against a fuel line, causing a hole which can lead to fires. According to the company there hasn't been any fires yet.

Volkswagen says anyone could simply snip off the part that chafes.

December 14, 2010

Dollar at par is more curse than blessing

CANADA - The Canadian dollar is continuing to hover near parity with the U.S. dollar, often being worth slightly more than the U.S. dollar in recent months. This is a nuisance for anyone who is paid in U.S. currency and there is a whole list of reasons for why parity is both a blessing and a curse for consumers, businesses and for the Canadian economy.

ie. If you buy a lot of things from the USA, you're probably doing better lately because your Canadian dollar can buy a lot more. But if you (for example) run a magazine and accept advertising from the USA in American currency, then you're making less.

It really depends to the degree of the individual or business and their spending habits / income sources. ie. You might start insisting that you be paid in Canadian dollars, because they're worth more and you don't lose money in the exchange process.

Here is some ways you may be making or losing money.

#1. Exports are Expensive. Heck, your job might be in danger if you work for a company that depends on exports to the USA. They might decide its cheaper to hire someone (or move the whole factory) to an American city.

#2. Industries such as forestry, mining, autos, high-tech, and most other manufacturing often price their products in U.S. dollars for shipment into other markets (not just the USA), so they directly feel the pain because their products are suddenly more expensive and will sell less often.

#3. Lower demand = Lower production = Fewer jobs and a lower income ripple effect. Some industries are immune right now, ie. the mining sector is enjoying record high gold prices and strong market conditions, which offsets the parity disadvantage and incredibly profitable. Other sectors however, like automotives and manufacturing, can be hurt as more parts manufacturing is done in the USA or overseas.

#4. Imports are cheaper, but its a double edged sword. Sure, you can buy books, gifts, electronics easier because they're cheaper when you shop across the border, but that is money you are taking out of the Canadian economy and pumping into the American economy (often to buy something which is made in China).

#5. American real estate is suddenly really cheap. Especially in places like Florida or Arizona which the housing market has collapsed. Heck, even Detroit looks attractive. See $68,007 for a four bedroom house in Detroit.

#6. Real estate however is a long–term investment and comes with a variety of upkeep costs like insurance, electricity, etc. Both insurance rates and electricity rates are rising in the USA so it may not be worth as much as you think. There is also taxes, financing and legal problems since many American homes were foreclosed on illegally during the Great Recession.

#7. Cheaper Stocks. You could diversify your stock portfolio with U.S. investments, but again this is a double edged sword. Any time you spend money outside of Canada you are in essence hurting the Canadian economy.Yes, you could invest in U.S. financial assets, such as exchange trade funds (ETFs) and mutual funds which are both common and practical, but since Canada's economy is still on the ropes it might be safer to invest closer to home while the Canadian economy is still in recovery mode. Plus many American companies are still pretty risky at this time and its amazing they haven't had another stock market crash.

#8. Exchange-rate fluctuations can boost or limit investment returns. The Canadian dollar is expected to go even higher in the future, possibly as high as $1.10 USD by June 2011. Investing in the USA now means you will likely take a -10% drop in your investment later.

#9. Its cheaper to travel to the USA right now, but its also cheaper to travel many places right now because the Canadian dollar is so high. South America, Africa, Europe and Asia are also just a plane ride away. You can compare prices online and you quickly realize you have a lot of cheap alternatives that are more exciting than the crime infest USA.

#10. 12% more Ontarians are traveled to the USA this year, a combination of cross-border shopping and tourism. This demand has driven up the price of hotels in the USA, so it may seem like less on your wallet but you're probably still spending more than is necessary.

#11. Shopping for a car in the USA is way cheaper right now. Plus American cars have less rust on them due to less road salt in the Winter.

#12. With the Canadian dollar expected to keep rising in value it might be better to keep your money in Canada. When it reaches $1.10 USD then you can splurgh a little by taking a trip to go shopping / etc in the USA.

Traders in futures markets are hoping the Canadian dollar will drop in 2011, but most economists are predicting a 5% to 10% rise in the Canadian dollar's value. Worse, sine the USA is deliberately devaluing their currency, the U.S. dollar could drop in value simultaneously to the tune of 5% to 15%. Thus the Canadian dollar could rise in the next year dramatically compared to the USD, anywhere from 5% to 25%.

Of course such a staggering rise would hurt Canadian exports, which would cause our dollar to come back down in value. Thus what we can really expect is a turbulent up and down ride in 2011.

Meanwhile...

HOUSEHOLD DEBT IN CANADA IS SKYROCKETING

According to Statistics Canada, the amount Canadian’s are spending compared to what they can afford to spend hit an all-time high in the last three months.

In a report released yesterday, between July and September 2010 the ratio of household credit market debt (consumer credit, mortgages + loan debt) to personal disposable income increased to 148.1%. Its up almost 5% from the second quarter when the ratio was just under 143.5%.

This means Canadians are overspending on credit and need to be paying off their credit cards, mortgages and lines-of-credit more. Many Canadians are spending their paycheques before they even receive them, and worse, one in three Canadians is living from paycheque to paycheque. If they lose their jobs they could be in serious financial peril (ie. homeless).

As a double whammy Canadians are also earning less. The average income is down compared to 2009 and still below 2007 levels. The number of high paying jobs have dwindled.

While the Canadian economy may be showing signs of improvement in the stock market, joblessness is still high and the current Conservative government is squandering any stimulus money in their own political ridings.

December 10, 2010

The Future of Automated Businesses

TECHNOLOGY - Large corporations waste a lot of money quite literally "moving money around". If you have ever worked for a pension company, a bank or anything remotely similar you know this to be true. Its just a whole lot of paperwork.

But let us stop for a moment and imagine if businesses could become much more automated. ie. Lets pretend there was a bank with no tellers. People deposited their money from their pay cheques via direct deposit, and they got their funds using a debit card. They could manage their account online without ever speaking to a bank teller, a manager or whatever. They applied online or via snailmail, the mail was delivered to a machine which scanned in their vital info to a database, and everything is stored in a series of databases.

The only time money actually moves is when supervisors and security manage the transfers of actual cash. And the only staff are a few managers, some supervisors, security, database management and an anti-hacker team.

People could also apply for a mortgage or loan online and get back an affirmative or denial IMMEDIATELY. And because there is very little overhead costs the bank could offer better deals, and at the same time better profits for stockholders.

What you would end up with is a bank that is super efficient and every stockholder would want to invest in it.

Which brings me to the topic of ERP software. Its basically software which allows people to manage a lot more things and automate some of tasks normally done by people.

"An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is an integrated computer-based application used to manage internal and external resources, including tangible assets, financial resources, materials, and human resources. Its purpose is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders. Built on a centralized database and normally utilizing a common computing platform, ERP systems consolidate all business operations into a uniform and enterprise-wide system environment.

An ERP system can either reside on a centralized server or be distributed across modular hardware and software units that provide "services" and communicate on a local area network. The distributed design allows a business to assemble modules from different vendors without the need for the placement of multiple copies of complex and expensive computer systems in areas which will not use their full capacity."


ERP software is essentially for communications and managing money or resources, but it could be adapted to do a lot more for businesses. ie. Lets say you owned a designer swimwear company and you take online payments. But what if you could automate the payment process entirely and the only thing remaining was the guy or gal who prints out the label, sticks it on the package and ships the swimwear to whomever ordered it. Sounds really easy right? Indeed.

Or lets say you were running a private school or college. Something small like a beauty school. You could also accept enrollments online, payments, fill up courses and so forth, and the student does not even talk to a person until they show up for their first day of classes. The idea could eventually be adapted to larger things like universities which are much more complex and offer way more course options, but universities are usually picky about marks and want to interview people before they accept them for enrollment.

In the future all of these paper pushing tasks should become automated. The only things remaining for PEOPLE to actually do is create the items to be sold (or build a robotic mechanism to do that for them), advertise the product (which is likewise becoming more automated with internet advertising) and of course buy them.

Of course we also need teachers along the way, because while the idea of robotic teachers have been around since Astro Boy and The Jetsons, there has not been any major improvements in either artificial intelligence or robotics.



Which begs the question... what happens to all the menial labour people once the machines do really reach a point where we have robotic maids? And what happens to the economy when all those people become jobless or have to be retrained to something else that a robot cannot do?

After all if the robots take away all the easy jobs, regular people will need to learn how to make more complex things by hand, become scientists or engineers, or do something really creative.

ie. Even farming could be automated, the same way robotic vacuum cleaners work on a radio guidance system.

What it means is that we are heading towards a future wherein human existence will be more made up of scientists and engineers (for maintenance) and also lots of people who are artists or craftsmen (because many people will still value man-made products). Much of our society would become dependent on socialism and communism by default, a Star Trek-esque society wherein everyone automatically can find work doing something they enjoy because food, energy and a home is all cheaply made.

If our whole society becomes either scientists or artists there will be nothing left to do but explore the galaxy beyond our own star system. It would become like Star Trek, but in a very real way.

I found the image below and thought it was amusing. In a Darwinian way.

December 6, 2010

WikiLeaks under attack by governments

POLITICS - The governments of multiple countries are working together to discredit and shut down WikiLeaks. Today the Swiss postal system stripped WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of one of his bank accounts. The money inside the account will still be returned to him, but many banks and governments are either refusing to work with WikiLeaks or are shutting down anything related to him in an effort to censor WikiLeaks from releasing sensitive government information.

The Swiss Post / Postfinance accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of lying about living in Geneva, claiming he didn't have any apartments or offices in Geneva.

“That's his money, he will get his money back,” says a Postfinance representative. “We just close the account and that's it.”

WikiLeaks secret spilling website isn't just being attacked by the Swiss either. Iceland, Germany, Sweden and other countries are making life difficult for WikiLeaks and its donation supported element (the donations are usually routed through Iceland and Germany).

And Sweden? Well, Sweden has upped the ante by claiming sexual misconduct against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he visited the country in the Summer. The Swedish case has been described by his British lawyer Mark Stephens as a political stunt. A European arrest warrant was issued for Assange last week and it is currently working its way through the British legal system.

The idea is that if a country can convict Assange of some minor crime that his website can be shut down somehow and prevent the release of more sensitive documents in the future.

WikiLeaks has been under intense international scrutiny over its disclosure of millions of classified U.S. diplomatic cables, after previously releasing tens of thousands of classified U.S. military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The disclosures have embarrassed the U.S. and other governments worldwide.

The intensity of the scrutiny has resulted in internet service providers and even online payment providers to refuse to work or cut ties with WikiLeaks.

Today WikiLeaks' Swedish servers came under cyber attack, the latest in a series of attacks by foreign hackers from a variety of countries including the USA. U.S. officials are seeking to charge Julian Assange with something, but are uncertain of what to charge him with because they obviously want him to disappear, but they don't want it to look like a cover up.

Extradition experts say arrest warrants can take weeks or even months to lead to an arrest, which means WikiLeaks can continue to release classified information on schedule.

Assange says his site has another 250,000 documents which will be leaked en masse if he is charged in the USA.

Quite a few politicians are calling for Julian Assange to be charged with treason and even to be killed, but newspapers and news agencies are quietly supportive of Assange because they are eager to get the information that Assange plans to release.

It should be noted that these documents were likely doomed to be leaked eventually anyway, all WikiLeaks does is provide a forum for releasing the information confidentially.

Facebook and MySpace fighting for attention

TECHNOLOGY - MySpace has updated their look and Facebook has announced plans to update their look too. Its a battle of design, aesthetics and functions.

MySpace for example is focusing on their ability to customize the page so users can feel more at home.



Not be outdone however Facebook decided to revamp their design to place more emphasis on photography of users. The overwhelming popularity of photographs — 100 million a day are posted on the site — persuaded Facebook to add more graphics.



Meanwhile...

BlackBerry PlayBook looks pretty awesome

Research in Motion last Friday gave a sneak peak of its upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. People got a chance to finally touch and use the device, which is half the size of an iPad, but has a lot more power and functions, like front and back cameras.

Attendees to the sneak preview of the PlayBook were wowed by the product on a number of levels. It can be used as a video camera, for video editing, is Flash capable (the iPad can't use Flash) and it is compatible with other devices (ie. HDTVs, digital projectors, SmartPhones and BlueTooth connectivity).



Due out in February 2011 for about $500, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a 7-inch tablet touchscreen and can run multiple applications at the same time and can be used side by side.

See Also: Touchscreen is the Future

South Korea vows revenge

By Charles Moffat - December 2010.

POLITICS - If a war comes between North and South Korea it will be because neither side was willing to stop tit-for-tatting back and forth.

President Lee Myung-bak’s choice for a new defence minister says South Korean jets will bomb the North if the North stages another attack like last week’s deadly artillery barrage. This would mean an incursion into North Korea, and a declaration of open war.

North Korea meanwhile has already promised more artillery barrages if South Korea and the USA conducts military drills near the North Korean border.

As a person who used to live in South Korea the question of whether the two Koreas will go to war is near and dear to me. South Korea is like a 2nd home to me. If a war happened I would be tempted to sign up and help teach Canadian troops how to speak Korean, an useful skill for troops to have when taking prisoners and recognizing which Koreans are the enemy and the ally.

President Lee’s government is under intense criticism that its response to North Korea’s November 23rd attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong was too weak and that they should be doing more to make it clear attacks on South Korea will not go unanswered. Especially since SK' spy chief dismissed information that the North was planning an attack on Yeonpyeong since August.

Thus the announcement that any new attacks will incur air-strikes and provoke a war is sending the message that South Korea is ready for war if the North doesn't back off. Kim Kwan-jin, the defence minister nominee, says South Korea will use all its combat capabilities to retaliate.

As nominee Kim Kwan-jin is guaranteed the post. The hearing before South Korea’s National Assembly is just a formality.

Kim also said North Korea is unable to conduct a full-scale war because of its weak economy, but this is just rhetoric on his part. North Korea's primary military ability isn't in normal weapons, its in sheer numbers of soldiers (military service is mandatory in North Korea), nuclear missiles and trickery, as much as it can muster. A war between the two Koreas will be full of Northern soldiers posing as Southern soldiers... which is why their ability to know English and their knowledge of western pop culture will be tested. (ie. by asking them to sing an Elvis song, name characters from Star Trek, or quote lines from The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.)

According to South Korean intelligence North Korea has boosted its rocket and missile capabilities for hitting Seoul. They now have 5,200 missiles aimed at Seoul. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff will not confirm the report.

The International Criminal Court said today it has opened a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes by North Korea resulting from its recent clashes with South Korea and attacks on civilians.

South Korean and US forces in the region remain on high alert.

MEANWHILE...

Sarah Palin is drawing heavy criticism around the world after declaring that the United States has to stand with “our North Korean allies.” during a radio talk show.



Sarah Palin’s gaffe was made last Wednesday during an interview on Glenn Beck’s syndicated radio show in which she mentioned her desire to run for president in 2012.

The Times of India says Sarah Palin “did it again.”

London’s Daily Mail says Sarah Palin “may want to brush up on her geography.”

Of course, if a war with North Korea happens in the next 2 years and Barack Obama is the sitting president during a nuclear war, Sarah Palin will have very little chance of unseating the president during a time of crisis. War has a tendency to bolster support for the sitting president.

ie. Like how Bill Clinton bombed Iraq in December 1998 and his approval ratings soared; Or how September 11th happened and George W. Bush's approval rating soared, despite being most useless president in U.S. history during the 1st 8 months and completely incompetent during the remainder of his presidency.

December 3, 2010

Toronto man shot dead with Crossbow

By Charles Moffat - December 2010.

CANADA - When I heard that a Toronto man had been shot dead with a crossbow inside a Toronto Public Library I immediately thought of my little sister, who is a librarian. Worse, when she was little she built a small crossbow. Thankfully it wasn't her who did it.

The man who did fled the scene after the incident, running past bustling children and parents in broad daylight yesterday. Reportedly the man he had killed had first been pepper-sprayed in the face and then shot with the crossbow at point blank range.

The shooting happened at the Main Street Public Library, near Main Street and Gerrard Street East. According to Toronto police its the first time a crossbow was used in a murder in Toronto. “It’s definitely a very unique situation,” says Constable Tony Vella, “a first.”

A 24-year-old Asian man from Ottawa named Zhou Fang is now in police custody, charged with first degree murder and the Toronto media is anxiously waiting to hear the motive for the murder in broad daylight in front of so many witnesses. The suspect was arrested in Scarborough.

The bizarre murder has heightened concerns in the city about the use and ownership of crossbows. (As an archer myself I want to stress that these items are usually only used for target practice, and sometimes used for hunting. I've never even heard of a murder using a crossbow before in Canada.)

The victim was shot in the back according to EMS and the body was kept in place overnight. The library is now closed indefinitely while police and CSI agents search for addition clues. They may have difficulty extracting the crossbow bolt from the victim's body.

The crossbow is described as a small hand crossbow, a type which is illegal in some provinces in Canada, but not illegal in Ontario.

The murderer then fled in a U-Haul truck just after 4 PM and "calmly drove away" according to witnesses. Police quickly acted upon information they received about the shooter and he was in custody within the hour.

Dead is Si Cheng, 52 years old, a resident of Toronto. Cheng and Fang knew each other, but police are currently not releasing details.

November 24, 2010

Funny Sex Cartoon

SEX - We found this by accident. Just had to share it with the world.



UPDATE:

This blog post has since gone viral via mobile users and we would like to update this posting to note the creators of the above cartoon: XKCD. We didn't know who the creator was when we originally posted it, but we feel they should get all the credit for making such an awesome cartoon. XKCD rocks!

See Also

November 23, 2010

North Korea attacks South Korean island of Yeonpyeong

By Charles Moffat - November 2010.

POLITICS - The island of Yeonpyeong is on the South Korean side of the border, but that didn't stop North Korea from attacking it with an artillery barrage that killed two soldiers and wounded 20 people. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called the attack "an invasion" of South Korea.

If that is an invasion, what do we call North Korea's other actions from the past year and a half? They have test-detonated nuclear weapons, launched long range missiles across the Pacific Ocean towards the USA and torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

The increasingly belligerent North Korea seems to be bent on war and many analysts believe nuclear war with North Korea is now inevitable. The only question remains is who will strike first, and where.

The Yeonpyeong Attack on November 23rd

The tiny island is home to a military base and a local residential population of farmers and fishermen. Both North and South Korea have a string of military bases near the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that is the border between the two nations.

North Korea claims South Korea fired first, something South Korea denies, but its not impossible they did indeed fire first because tensions on the Peninsula are the highest they've been in the 57 years since the 1st Korean War ended in 1953. What is known is that North Korea fired approx. 200 large artillery shells at the island. At the time South Korea was conducting a military drill in the region, but the firing was not [supposed to be] directed at North Korea.

The first sign of trouble was when on the morning of November 23rd, at 8:20 AM local time, North Korea sent a wire message warning South Korea not to conduct drills close to the border.

At 10 AM South Korea began conducting their military drill.

Hours later, at 2:34 PM local time, North Korea began shelling the town of Yeonpyeong and destroying anything it hit. A few of the artillery shells (like the one in the photo above) did not explode. North Korea stopped firing at 2:55, but resumed firing at 3:12 and doesn't stop until 3:41.

Since then many of the residents of the island have been evacuated, leaving only the military presence on the island and clean up crews sorting through the rubble. South Korea is now trying to determine when residents can return to their homes.



The 2nd Korean War?

For months now the USA and South Korea (and a few others) have been conducting military exercises in preparation for what they believe will be a combined invasion and nuclear attack from North Korea. The North is becoming desperate and the leadership from their frail and ill leader Kim Jong Il (and the handover of power to his 27 year old son Kim Jong-Un) is fraught with danger for the rest of the world.

#1. Kim Jong Il might decide to go out in a blaze of glory (or because of his illness, might allow his generals more control).

#2. His son Kim Jong-Un is a mere 27 years old, far too young to have his own arsenal of nuclear weapons. He was chosen to replace his father because his older brothers were considered to be too friendly towards foreigners and the military leadership wanted someone who absolutely hated the USA.

The more time North Korea has, the more nuclear missiles they will build. They've already determined they have enough missile power to reach Hawaii or Alaska from North Korea. Launching from a submarine or ship off the coast of the USA would drop the distance significantly.

For South Korea, Japan, China and the USA the issue is very complicated and dangerous.

  • South Korea is the hated rivals/family... there are many in South Korea who want a peaceful solution with North Korea and reunification.

  • Japan however is the hated enemies from centuries of conflict.

  • China is an ally, but one which has increasingly lost interest in North Korea in favour of its economic ally the USA, and thus could become a potential target if they are seen to be betraying North Korea to the USA and the South.

  • The USA is the hated and feared enemy, the one North Korea hates the most for a combination of racial, religious and ideological reasons.

    Analysts say there is two ways this war could pan out...

    #1. North Korea launches a sudden blitzkrieg invasion of South Korea, its military abandoning North Korea entirely and fighting guerrilla style in South Korea, combined with a volley of nuclear missiles directed at Seoul, Pusan, Tokyo, various military bases and American cities. The USA has missile interceptor ships currently standing by in the region, but the city of Seoul is mere a mere 30 km from the DMZ.

    #2. A tit-for-tat war until South Korea/USA decides to launch a pre-emptive strike to try and remove North Korea's nuclear arsenal, a task most analysts see as impossible because they would not be able to remove all of North Korea's missiles at the same time.

    Regardless, the end result would be a full scale nuclear war, something which hasn't happened yet and the whole world would be watching to see how the USA / Barack Obama handles such a problem.

    According to an American scientist who visited North Korea's facilities on November 12th in a "disarmament for food aid" deal North Korea has thousands of centrifuges for enriching uranium. Their nuclear arsenal could already be in the hundreds. The facility was described as modern and very new, suggesting it is not the first but one of several such facilities.

    Stanford University scientist Siegfried Hecker told U.S. officials he was “stunned” by the “sophistication” of the facility which was operated by “an ultra-modern control room.”

    This game of brinkmanship however is difficult to estimate how it will unfold. Who will blink first? Who will get an itchy trigger finger?

    South Korea’s population is very vulnerable to attacks from the North, over 50% of the South's population lives within 80 km of the DMZ.

    We've been warning for years now that North Korea is deliberately escalating the threat they pose. The younger generation in the North is hungry for war and think it is a solution to their problems... worse, they actually think they can win.

    Nobody wins in a war.

    See Also
    North Korea reacting to war games
    North Korea's heir apparent
    North Korean timeline towards Inevitable War
    North Korea launches missile
    North and South Korea on verge of open war
  • Afghan girls disguised to attend school

    POLITICS - Zahira Sarwar is an Afghan-Canadian working at GTZ in Afghanistan. While there she recently conducted an interview with a girl who disguised herself as a boy and went to school in a village where the Taliban was in control. The video below has English subtitles.

    Zahira Sarwar says "there is a common misconception that with the arrival of Foreign troops in Afghanistan and the introduction of democracy women's rights have improved. But as you will see in this video the Afghan government and foreign troops are only focussing on certain provinces and cities thereby leaving other regions of the country still in the hands of the Taliban. Consequently, women and young girls' lives are still affected by this."



    The areas the military are interested in are the Al-Qaeda strongholds along the border of Pakistan and protecting the Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline which goes through the Wakhjir Pass and the part of Afghanistan known as Wakhan Corridor which goes to the Chinese border. The oil pipeline to China is an important part of the USA's economic strategy for the region.

    November 22, 2010

    Electric cars = Brownouts?

    CARS - The first mass-market electric cars go on sale in December 2010, but will the electricity grid be able to take the extra stress? Will cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt be a boon or a burden?

    When you plug in an electric car (like the Tesla Roadster on the right) you draw electricity from the grid, made from a variety of sources like nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and of course... coal.

    At present coal isn't a very smart way of fueling cars. It just isn't practical to replace one source of carbon emissions (gasoline or diesel) with another source like coal.

    But coal is the cheapest source of electricity.

    A single electric car can draw as much power as a small house and when electric cars are being purchased by consumers the surge in demand result in brownouts where some locations just don't have enough electricity to spread around.

    Utilities in parts of California, Texas and North Carolina are scrambling to upgrade transformers and other equipment in neighborhoods where the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt are expected to be in high demand.

    The last time there was a sudden electricity demand like this was air conditioners during the 1950s and 1960s. So there will be problems...

    But there is a silver lining... In 2009, Americans alone spent $325 billion on gasoline, and utilities would love even a small piece of that market. Especially green utility companies like Bull Frog Power which specializes in delivery 100% green electricity and invests heavily in solar and wind projects.

    After all what is the point of having an electric car if the electricity being used to recharge the batteries isn't green too? Electric cars produce no emissions themselves, but the electricity they are charged with is made mostly from fossil fuels like coal. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council electric cars produce 66% less greenhouse gas emissions, on average, than a similarly sized car that runs on gasoline.

    THE MAIN OBSTACLES

    Limited Range: Most electric cars have a limit on their range and would have to be recharged either at home or at gas station with the proper equipment (and usually it takes awhile). In theory if you owned your own business you could have charge it up at work too. Eventually a network of charging stations will be made and parking lots will offer electricity charging as part of their services.

    High Cost: Electric cars already cost more than gasoline cars, that is to be expected. Their primary goal is to "save the environment", but their secondary goal is to save money by no longer needing to buy gasoline. In the beginning using electric cars should be cheaper than gasoline, but what happens when higher demand causes electricity rates to skyrocket?

    Driving 10,000 miles on electricity will use about 2,500 kilowatt-hours, or 20% more than the average annual consumption of U.S. homes. At an average utility rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, that’s $275 for a year of fuel, equivalent to about 70 cents per gallon of gasoline (or 17.5 cents per litre).

    Thus even if electricity rates were 55 cents per kWh you'd still be spending less on fuel than a gasoline driver. (Yesterday the price of gasoline was $1.09 / litre in Toronto.)

    If you calculate how much you drive in a year you might find you have significant savings. Indeed the more you drive, the more you save in comparison to driving the same distance on gasoline.

    Clustering: Utilities have more than enough power plants and equipment to power hundreds of thousands of electric cars. The problem is when lots of homeowners in one neighbourhood all buy electric cars. The phenomenon is called “clustering” because it can create local shortages and brownouts.

    Electric vehicle clusters are expected in neighborhoods where:

    High-income and environmentally conscious commuters live.

    Generous subsidies are offered by states and localities.

    Weather is mild, because batteries tend to perform better in warmer climates.

    THE FUTURE

    Automotive executives say it’s inevitable that utilities will experience some difficulties early on, both with the demand on their supply and also keeping their customers happy.

    An estimated 30,000 Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts are expected to be sold in 2011. Over the next two years Ford, Toyota and EVERY other major automaker also plans to offer electric cars as part of their new line up. (Its like the hybrids all over again...)

    So in theory electric cars will be here to stay, which will make gasoline drivers happy because gasoline prices should hopefully stay stable. (Although that isn't likely, due to the high demand in China and India.)

    Of course the real future is in Hydrogen Power, but the utility system and distribution network for hydrogen will need to be upgraded significantly first. Hydrogen-powered cars is really in its infancy while electric cars are toddlers in contrast. But the beauty of it is that by creating an infrastructure for electric cars it will also create a lot of the infrastructure that will later be needed for hydrogen cars (which uses electrolysis and salt water to collect hydrogen).

    Governments are promoting the technology as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. The U.S. Congress is offering electric car buyers a $7,500 tax credit and some states and cities provide additional subsidies that can total $8,000. The Nissan Leaf sells for $33,000 and the Chevy Volt sells for $41,000.

    Some states are going to be very aggressive about promoting electric cars. California has set a goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2020 and thus will likely have a lot more subsidies in the future.

    A million electric cars = A lot of electricity being sucked out of the grid, how big the drain will be depends on the size of the battery in the car, how fast the car is charged and the duration/range the car is capable of.

    From a standard 120-volt socket an electric car draws 1,500 watts. By comparison, a medium-sized air conditioner or a countertop microwave that is in use draws about 1,000 watts.

    The car can be charged faster however when plugged into a home charging station. The first Leafs and Volts can draw 3,300 watts, and both carmakers have plans to boost that to 6,600 watts. The Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car with a huge battery, can draw 16,800 watts.

    A modest home in the San Francisco Bay area (without air conditioning) uses 3,000 watts at most. Thus various neighbourhoods will need upgrades to the neighborhood transformer when the usage from single homes suddenly skyrockets from 3,000 to 6,000+ or even 20,000.

    Replacing a neighborhood transformer costs a utility between $7,000 and $9,000, according to SoCal Edison. Fortunately this is work a utility will often want to do, but it often requires government approval.

    Utility executives hope the popularity of electric cars will grow as the vehicles’ costs come down and as public charging stations are made available at malls and along highways. They know there will be problems with blown fuses and fried transformers, but they also know its a huge market that will pour lots of extra cash into the system and allow them to spend more on solar and wind projects.

    Why? Because everyone wants to go green, its just a matter of getting there.

    See Also
    Can Electric Cars be Sexy?
    Mitsubishi Electric Car
    Car Sharing is the Future
    Green Cars in 2020
    Converting Hybrids into Electrics
    The Eco-Car Battleground
    Hydrogen Power

    Prositution laws in Ontario under scrutiny

    CANADA/SEX - This past September an Ontario Superior Court judge struck down three key prostitution laws, and that decision is set to come into effect in Ontario on Saturday November 27th. The result will be an “unprecedented” social experiment to see whether brothels is a safer place for prostitutes than walking the streets, and whether prostitutes have the right to use the money they make to feed their families and the right to hire bodyguards and staff, and perhaps most importantly the right to screen customers.


    The three laws struck down prohibited the use of brothels, the ability to hire staff/give money from the proceeds to family members, and a communication law which prohibited prostitutes from screening customers with criminal records.

    The laws were struck down because the judge ruled that these laws made it less safe for prostitutes. The concept is that prostitutes will be much safer if they have the right to operate a brothel, that they need the right to feed their family and hire bodyguards/staff for their protection, and that they should be given the right to screen customers who might have a violent criminal record.

    However the new status of these laws isn't a done deal yet. The federal and Ontario governments are today before the provincial Appeal Court, asking for the ruling to be stayed until a proper appeal can be heard.

    Lawyers for the federal government say if a stay isn’t granted, Saturday will bring about a “social experiment unprecedented in this country.”

    But lawyers representing sex workers say those laws contribute to the dangers faced by prostitutes, and that status quo can’t be maintained.

    Soliciting sex and pimping are still illegal in Canada.

    See Also
    Canadian Feminists divided over Prostitution
    Criminalizing the Men

    In other news...

    Judge in Murder Trial declares Mistrial

    The judge for Erika Mendieta’s second murder trial has declared a second mistrial Monday. Mendieta is charged with murdering her daughter in 2003 after she beat her 2-year-old daughter Emily to death. The judge ruled that the prosecutor from her first trial had distracted the jury and intimidated the defendant.

    Mendieta’s second trial had begun to crumble when the jury sent a note to Justice Nola Garton asking that a man be removed from the courtroom gallery because he was making strange faces. The man in question turned out to be assistant Crown attorney Paul Alexander, the prosecutor from the 1st trial.

    The note read:

    “Dear Your Honour, We the jury would like to have a male individual removed from the courtroom. We find him very distracting, and he is making strange faces all the time. We feel very uncomfortable with him. He sits to your right, and has blond hair.”

    They included a diagram of the courtroom, marking the spot where Alexander sat with an asterisk and the words “He sits here!”

    The judge determined that Paul Alexander was deliberately trying to distract the jury and intimidate the woman on trial and declared a mistrial. A third trial will be held in the future.

    November 19, 2010

    Harry Potter leaked online

    By Charles Moffat - November 2010.

    ENTERTAINMENT - The new Harry Potter film hit the theatres at 12:01 AM this morning (I know because I managed to get tickets for the 12:01 showing of it, and better yet got bumped up to IMAX when the demand was so high).

    However what you may have also heard is that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) has already been leaked online. Or more specifically, the first 36 minutes of the film was leaked... essentially a sneak preview of the film, sparking debate as to whether the first 36 minutes were deliberately leaked to drum up the number of people who would go to the movie theatre to see the remaining 1 hour and 54 minutes of the film.

    Warner Bros denies leaking it on purpose and has started an investigation into how the first 36 minutes was leaked online.



    The last Harry Potter film was one of the top 10 most pirated films of 2009. Its highly likely Part 1 and Part 2 of the final chapter of the Harry Potter franchise will also be heavily downloaded.

    And if you got there early enough you might have also saw the following preview for "Cowboys & Aliens".

    November 17, 2010

    Chevy Volt Car of the Year

    CARS - Motor Trend magazine has named the Chevrolet Volt electric car its "2011 Car of the Year".

    As usual Motor Trend is either behind the times or trying desperately to get ahead of the curve. And they miss pretty often based on their track record. Lets look at some of Motor Trend's past "Cars of the Year"...

    2010 Ford Fusion - Production of gasoline version the Ford Fusion began in 2005, but it wasn't until 2010 that they came out with a hybrid version. Otherwise there isn't anything special about it.

    2009 Nissan GT-R - Its a 485 horsepower supercar made in Japan. It also won Top Gear's "Supercar of the Year"... in 2007! Motor Trend is 2 years too late.

    2008 Cadillac CTS - A luxury sedan. Yawn. So bored just saying the name. Next please.

    2007 Toyota Camry - The Toyota Camry has been on sale since 1980. The only major change in recent years is they started selling a hybrid version in 2006.

    2006 Honda Civic - Another oldie... The Honda Civic was first introduced in July 1972!!! Again the only major change is they introduced a hybrid version.

    2005 Chrysler 300 - Ironic because it wasn't even sold in 2005. Although sales in 2006 of this luxury segan (yawn!) were good, sales in recent years have dropped by over 70%.

    2004 Toyota Prius - Ah, the original hybrid that started it all. It was the biggest innovation of its time. On sale since 1997 it was first introduced to the American market in 2000, but it took Motor Trends another 4 years to get the drift. Toyota sold over 400,000 Priuses in the last year alone; Over 2 million in the last decade.

    2003 Infiniti G35 - ANOTHER luxury sedan. Seriously, Motor Trend just seems to take turns between the latest hybrid and latest luxury sedan which crosses their fancy. Yawnerrific.

    2002 Ford Thunderbird - And then just for kicks they toss in the occassional car to make your head spin and wonder if they know what year it is. The Ford Thunderbird has been on sale since 1955. It was taken off the market in 2005 because sales were ridiculously low and the brand had become lame and ugly ever since 1972 (the old Thunderbirds are a thing of beauty, but ever since 1972 they've been ugly as sin).

    2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser - Its a new car with an ugly design, a crappy engine, poor performance, and a big butt. Some people like the look, but most of us think they're god-awful-ugly-and-slow! (If you want a retro-looking car, get a Plymouth Prowler. At least it looks good... but alas it was taken off the market in 2002.) The good new however is that the PT Cruiser was also discontinued in 2009.

    2000 Lincoln LS - Oh look another Luxury Sedan! And oh look it was taken off the market in 2006 due to low sales!

    Anywho... back to the Chevy Volt. Motor Trend claims they picked the Volt because it has some of the most advanced engineering ever seen in an American car.

    No seriously, that is what they said! Nevermind that they've ignored electric cars entirely until now and only picked up promoting hybrids 4 years after they went on sale. They really should be called Motor Behind the Trend magazine.

    Oh and the Chevy Volt comes with a backup gasoline engine... which makes it technically a hybrid. It can go "up to" 50 miles on the electric engine before the gasoline engine kicks in.

    At $33,500 (with a federal tax credit) the Chevy Volt is nothing special when compared to other hybrids. The only real difference is that if you can keep yourself under the 50 mile mark and hypermile it you could in theory be driving a car that is 100% electric. But good luck keeping under that mark unless you live really close to work... in which case, why aren't you just walking or cycling? The Volt goes on sale this December.

    Automakers often quote Motor Trend awards in advertising... but one must wonder if they just promote whichever company throws the most money at them. Not a bribe per se, just whichever company buys the top spot. Its basically a rag when it comes to car magazines.

    But whatever...

    In other news General Motors is having its initial public offering of stock on Thursday (tomorrow) and they've already upped the minimum stock price from $29 to almost $33 due to high demand.

    Cellphone fees taken to task

    CANADA/TECHNOLOGY - A Liberal politician in Ontario wants wireless companies to stop confusing consumers with complex cellphone contracts and high fees. David Orazietti has introduced a private member's bill in the provincial legislature that would stop unfair practices by wireless service providers.

    If passed, the bill would:

  • Reduce cancellation fees;
  • Make advertising and costs transparent;
  • Clarify and simplify contracts.

    This way consumers will know what they're paying for and aren't getting ripped off when their cellphone bill comes and has extra charges on it.

    Companies would also be forced to unlock any phone once it's paid for, even if they haven't agreed to a contract, so buyers can switch service providers the same day without their phone being relocked and re-unlocked.

    Quebec already implemented similar legislation in July.
  • Green Lantern trailer

    ENTERTAINMENT - The much buzzed about "Green Lantern" film is scheduled to be released on June 17, 2011, but the trailer is here now to whet the interest of fans.



    The film stars People magazines’s 'Sexiest Man Alive', Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds as 'Hal Jordan'.

    Note: If you are used to seeing the Green Lantern in the Justice League TV show (or other sources) you might be confused to see that Green Lantern is white. BUT as any true Green Lantern fan will tell you, there is more than one Green Lantern. Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Kilowog (all shown below).







    Green Lantern's Oath:

    In brightest day, in blackest night,
    No evil shall escape my sight
    Let those who worship evil's might,
    Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!


    It may not sound like much to non-fans, but Green Lantern fans are probably wetting themselves with excitement right now.

    Royal Wedding: Prince William & Kate Middleton

    ENTERTAINMENT - Seriously, it doesn't count as politics when you announce Prince William of Britain & Kate Middleton are getting married. Maybe in the centuries past it would be politics, but these days its just celebrity buzz.

    Prince William and his bride-to-be Kate Middleton will be getting married between March and September of 2011. They have yet to pick a date.

    If they want a sunny wedding the list of dates are limited. Its pretty much guaranteed to be rainy regardless. [Although traditionally that is a good omen for fertility. ;)]

    In other news Kate Middleton is 28 years old. That is practically 22 by today's standards. Most 20-somethings are waiting longer to get married.

    Oh and there is the price tag... £25 million ($40 million USD) in taxpayer money from a country currently in the worst recession in decades. So will that mean cutting back on their budget?

    Oh and British citizens are already betting on when the wedding will be... and how long it will last.

    Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage lasted from July 29th 1981 until the separation in the early 1990s. The divorce was on August 28th 1996.

    40% of marriages in Britain end in divorce, the highest divorce rate in the world.

    Electricity rates in Ontario slashed 10%

    CANADA - Ontario's Liberal government has decided Ontarians are paying too much for electricity (or as we call it locally "hydro"). Thus they've decided to slash hydro bills by a whopping 10% starting January 1st 2011.

    It will cost the province $1 billion per year and it will only effect homes and small businesses (corporations, factories, etc. will still pay the full rate).

    The problem you see is that electricity in Ontario costs about 13.5 cents per kWH to produce, but its sold for approx. 6.5 cents each. The province ends up paying almost 50% of the cost.

    So in reality this reduction is nothing new. Ontario has been subsidizing electricity rates since the beginning.

    The average hydro bill in Ontario about $125 a month, so this $12.50 / month reduction will save ratepayers about $150 each / year... you will know this because the price discount will be mentioned on your bill as the new “Ontario Clean Energy Benefit” reduction, just above taxes.

    This in essence decreases the amount people in Ontario pay, despite the 8% increase due to HST's introduction back in Summer 2010. By roughly 2% overall.

    Expect more tax breaks and other things coming in the near future too. Its an election year and the next provincial election is set for October 6th 2011.

    The Liberals have also trimmed Ontario's budget.

    And there is also plans to scrap the “debt-retirement fees” of around $10 a month from the old Ontario Hydro corp. It is due to come off bills in 2016 anyway, but they might scrap it early to make voters happy if they can cobble together $5 billion towards the project.

    In September, an Angus Reid poll found 86% of Ontarians feel “it is harder now than it was two years ago to make ends meet.” Thus helping voters pay for their bills (of which electricity is a chief complaint) is the right direction if they want to get more votes.

    While they are a it they need to start pressuring Ottawa on a list of things that should be exempt from HST:

    #1. Healthy Food. (This might require grocery stores to include the tax with the price of unhealthy "junk food", but would result in most vegetables, meats, milk, cheese, etc. coming in at a lower price. Ontario has been debating for years of putting a tax on junk food. This would be the opposite, a tax exemption on healthy food.

    #2. Children's Educational Materials.

    #3. Fitness Equipment, Gym Memberships and Bicycle Equipment.

    #4. Green Cars: Hybrids, Electrics, Hydrogen-powered.

    #5. University Books.

    Some of these used to be exempt from PST or GST, but when the HST came into effect they lost all the exemptions. You can probably come up with a list of things you'd like to see exempt from HST.

    The only snag is that Ontario needs Ottawa's permission to get exemptions in...

    So what if Ontario created something which is the OPPOSITE of a tax? For example an "Healthy Food Reduction" which appears on bills right before the taxes are applied. Say 10%.

    In one pocket and out the other.

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